DENVER (CBS4) – A federal judge will decide if the City of Denver should be held in contempt of court for interfering with protesters handing out pamphlets in front of the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse.
It’s an ongoing protest in which flyers are handed out urging jurors to go with their conscience rather than what a judge tells them to do. It’s called jury nullification.
First a state court judge ordered the activity to stop, and then a federal judge issued what seems to be a contradictory order allowing them to stay. Then the police came.
It was Aug. 26 when the confrontation took place. Police told the group to remove their canopy, table and chairs or there would be action taken against the protesters. They made it clear the protesters would be arrested if they did not comply, but there were no arrests that day. But Mark Iannicelli faces seven counts of jury tampering after previously giving out jury nullification flyers. Eric Brandt was later sought by police for the same charge.
“Well I thought I would be protected by the First Amendment,” Iannicelli told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger. “It was a big surprise because now I have to go to court.”
He was one of several who went to federal court asking a judge to back his earlier injunction with a contempt order against Denver police as a result of the incident.
The city maintains the officers did not confiscate any jury nullification literature and the protest was outside the area covered by the federal injunction. The attorney for the protesters, David Lane, sees it differently.
“In Russia when you pass out literature that the government doesn’t agree with you go to jail. In Denver, Colorado, when you pass out literature that the government doesn’t agree with you go to jail,” Lane said.
It’s has pitted demonstrators against police, and one court against another.
The City of Denver and Attorney General’s Office declined to go on camera, but the city issued a statement saying the plaza at the courthouse is a public forum and all should be free to use it within the law.